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2016 National League Championship Series: All Eyes on Chicago

[lead align=”default”]Two teams face off in the 2016 National League Championship Series, but one of them gets all the attention.[/lead]

The Chicago Cubs, by mere virtue of being there, create a baseball spectacle. Their last World Series appearance was 71 years ago, just as World War II ended. Since then, just eight playoff appearances for the Cubbies, and only five trips to the NLCS. 2016 is only the third time since 1945 that the Cubs won a playoff series. Hence, the Lovable Losers.

This year, however, they’re more lovable to Chicagoans for abandoning the “Losers” part. The Cubs think this is their best opportunity to win a pennant since the days of Harry Truman. They are right, yet they are the Cubs. If things were guaranteed, they wouldn’t be going on 108 years without a title.

Oh, by the way, there’s another team participating. The 2016 National League Championship Series also features the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that came back late in Game 5 to dismiss the Washington Nationals. Their pitching staff — at least the very top of it — is good enough to get the Dodgers to the World Series. Should they do it, it would be Dodger Blue’s first trip to the Fall Classic since 1988.

Clayton Kershaw and his 1.69 ERA strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. They have other decent starters, such as likely Game 1 starter Kenta Maeda, but it’s Kershaw’s staff. Otherwise, Kenley Jansen is a worthy closer with 47 saves; get the game to him and it’s over.

Offensively, it’s hard to argue with what the Cubs are tossing out there. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are the studliest of Chicago hitters, but Rizzo’s NLDS against San Francisco left much to desire. Just one hit in fifteen at-bats for Rizzo, while Bryant was 6-for-16 with a dinger. Give them a pass for facing Giants pitching, but the Dodgers have pitching of their own.

The Dodger offense is less potent by quite a bit, but effective enough to help win 91 games. Corey Seager and Justin Turner are among the best bats, and both need to come up big against pitchers like Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.

2016 National League Championship Series: The Edge

God help the Cubs if they blow this. (He hasn’t intervened yet in the last century, at least not on their side.)

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